(MJ) The wild yeasts of the atmosphere spontaneously cause fragmentation of natural sugars. This produces alcohol - turning grapes into vine and grain into beer. The art of distillation was used by mariners (to render sea water drinkable), alchemists, makers of perfumes, and eventually in the production of medicines and alcoholic drinks.
Distilling may have come from the Orient, via the Moors, to spain and Europe. There is some evidence of distilling in Ireland at the beginning of this millennium. The first indisputable reference in Scotland is an entry of 1494 in purphase of malt by Friar John Cor of Dunfermline (the former capital city) to make "acquavitae". In medieval times, much production of alcoholic drinks was in abbeys. They were the centres of communities, with their own inns, and were also centres of learning and science.
Aqcuavitae, "the wather of life", indicated simply "spirits". This word, in various spellings, is found today in some Nordic countries, and the French "Eau-de-vie" translates in the same way. Rendered in Irish- and Scottish-Gaelic, the term becomes "uisgebeatha" or " usquebaugh", among other spellings. These Gaelic names, sounding to the English-speaker like "uishgi", were corrupted to "whisky".
Like the original vodkas and today's gins, the first Scottish distillates were flavoured with herbs and spices. By the mid-1700s, a distinction was made in Scotland between these favoured spirits and "plain malt".
(The MJ part is to be continued....)
Various Scotch whiskies
Main article: Scotch whisky
Scotch whiskies are generally distilled twice, though some are distilled a third time. In fact, in 2009 the Bruichladdich distillery released a quadruple-distilled whisky called X4 + 3. It was the first ever official whisky of its type.International laws require anything bearing the label "Scotch" to be distilled in Scotland and matured for a minimum of three years and one day in oak casks, among other, more specific criteria. An age statement on the bottle, in the form of a number, must reflect the age of the youngest Scotch whisky used to produce that product. A whisky with an age statement is known as guaranteed age whisky.
Scotch whisky without an age statement may, by law, be as young as three years old.
The basic types of Scotch are malt and grain, which are combined to create blends. Many, though not all, Scotch whiskies use peat smoke to treat their malt, giving Scotch its distinctive smoky flavour. Scotch whiskies are divided into five main regions: Highland, Lowland, Islay, Speyside and Campbeltown
(From Collins Pocket / The history of Scotch Whisky-making)
It is widely accepted that whisky has been distilled in Scotland for hundreds of years, and different hypotheses os to its origins have been suggested. Spme state that is was brouthtingo the country by missionary from Ireland; others point out that, as the Arabs were among the first to learn distillation techniques , knights and men returning from Crusades could have brought the knowledge back from them. It may well be, however, that it evolved simply as a means of using up barley which would otherwise have been ruined after a wet harvest.
The name itself is derived from the Gaelic, uisgebeatha, meaning 'wather of life'. The Latin equilalent, aqua vitae, was a term which was commonly used thoughout Europe to describe the local spirit. Aqua vitae made its first appearance in official Scottish records in 1494, with the record of malt being sold to one Friar John Cor...
I would just like to point out that it was actually Lindores Abbey in Fife (about 30 miles from Dunfermline) that Friar John Cor distilled his "Aqua Vitae" at.
All the best